We are really proud to be sharing such a lush album with you guys this weekend from Billow Observatory. I finally was able to sit all the way thru it today and it really came together as one of the most cohesive albums of the year. The sound is submerged in Loscil like drones but every so often you feel like everything comes up for air.
Time. It all comes back to time.
The self-titled debut album from Billow Observatory — the duo comprising Danish producer Jonas Munk, aka Manual, and Auburn Lull guitarist Jason Kolb — is a record that has been nearly a decade in the making, and a record that unfolds at a stately, unhurried pace, its subtleties revealing themselves with repeated listening. Its sound reflects its creators’ diverse backgrounds — Kolb’s ambient guitar work, along with Munk’s experience in film music and the minutiae of sound engineering — as well as their patience and devotion to their craft.
The genesis of Billow Observatory came in summer 2004, when Munk was first introduced to Kolb’s work with Auburn Lull. A split EP between Manual and Auburn Lull was mooted, and although this didn’t materialize, the duo began exchanging ideas and audio files, finally meeting in person during 2007 when they played a show together in Michigan.
As time passed, their work began to coalesce into what would become Billow Observatory — as Munk says, “We never expected to be working on material for six years, but something very exciting took shape as soon as we started working together and we had to follow that idea to the end.” The process of following that idea was slow and deliberate, one that required meticulous attention to detail and nuance. The resultant album is the work of two musicians at the top of their game, pouring years of experience and expertise into the creation of a record where every sound is there for a reason.
Munk adds, “The basis for most of this material comes from guitars and effects devices but every bit has been processed and treated with software… I didn’t use a lot of different effects – the focus on my part has been on shaping each bit of sound to perfection, still maintaining the character of a guitar but turning it into something that doesn’t sound ‘played’. I think of a lot of this material as sounding as if it comes from surroundings rather than from hands touching instruments.”
The music the duo have created is immersive and somehow timeless, evoking places and ambiences as exotic as some of those that give the songs their names. “I remember we would sometimes ask each other questions about random places with interesting names that we thought the other person would know something interesting about,” Kolb explains. “I would ask Jonas about the Baltic Sea, Scandinavia, or something in that general area of the world and he would ask something similar about Michigan or the Great Lakes. I think we were influenced by the idea of creating music that told vague, semi-fictitious histories of places we knew very little about.”
In an age where we race from one instant to the next, never stopping to think about the moment we’re inhabiting, Billow Observatory is a record that rewards patience and, yes, time. “[The album] is dense with emotion and meticulously crafted,” says Munk, “while feeling light and airy when listening to the song as a whole. I have had this album for over a year and it still withstands the test of time.”
If I’m ever in need of inspiration, the National Film Board of Canada’s website is an absolute goldmine of films ranging from the 1930’s to present. For myself, it’s their documentary nature films in particular that capture the imagination.
This film is a short doc about Canada’s arctic from the NFB’s earlier years (c1958). I’m considering posting a few more of these over the next few weeks, so I’d be interested in knowing what you think.
Looking for old and new music always becomes leads you down different paths, one of my favorite ways is just seeing how deep in Bandcamp I can get without hitting a dead end. This is probably the most raw way of searching just behind blindly clicking thru Soundcloud via their community.
I urge everyone to buy or even click thru and learn more about each artist, most of them aren’t in retail shops or even iTunes, so if you like something please support.
To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.
After a decade without a vinyl release ADULT. has Resuscictation reissued beautifully which includes the true and authentic sound of raw dark electro.
Machinedrum is slipping in a release before the year is through. This single is pretty much perfect for the dance beat scene right now without trying to sound like anyone else, what makes it for me is that doesn’t rely on effecting the sound, just a solid loop that grows naturally but has the elements to keep a dancefloor moving, thats rare today.
Must be an honor to be asked to remix Philip Glass but who else better than Tim Hecker. There’s little aggression or fury, half the song feels like your just losing signal with a beautiful sound but in the most romantic way.
Gorgeous atmosphere from self released Drifter, sounds to me like a respectful ritual for a cave within a cave.
I see even bigger things happening for Soundcloud in the future, mainly the community within it coming closer so I decide to start a guide of people to follow if you like what’s on ISO50. One of the most stylized and trusted labels out of Germany is Raster Noton, its always beautiful to see a brand have control and always be able to experiment. It might be an odd one but its a great source, why not a PR company that chooses to covers some good bands. My old DJ partners are both off doing family and travelling but the Worst Friends project is still alive and well.
It would be difficult to understate the influence of Lawren Harris’ abstract landscapes on Canadian identity. As a founding member of The Group of Seven, Harris pioneered a distinctly Canadian school of art that departed from European contemporaries of the same era. Minimal in texture and detail, his grandiose landscapes use sweeping curves and simplified abstract forms to capture a wider, almost spiritual representation of a landscape.
Fairly covering Harris’ entire career in a single blog post is tricky, but what I’ve presented here are the some of his best known works from Northern Ontario (Lake Superior) in the 1920’s and the Rocky Mountains and Arctic during the 1930’s. I’ve also provided a look at some of the more abstract, but less celebrated work he painted during the late 1930’s and 40’s. Overall, I find most of what he painted during these years to imbue a remarkable sense of modernism, and something I’m hoping readers of ISO50 can appreciate.
I know some of you are most likely familiar with the Group of Seven and Lawren Harris, but if not I would love to know what you think and if you find the work inspiring.